Self-reliance is one of the most powerful tools one can possess, as it can help us get through the most difficult phases of life.
It is an old-fashioned virtue, but self-reliance is one of the biggest strengths we can have to combat the storms of life. I nurse the fond dream that at the age of 18, boys and girls should necessarily pass an exam that qualifies them to become adults. That test would include, among other things, an evaluation of their self-esteem, their courage and stamina to cope with difficulties, their capacity to run a house including how to cook (mandatory for both sexes), their capacity to cope with failures, to nurse an invalid and to nurture a pet or a baby.
If they can accomplish this much at 18, chances are they can cope with whatever life throws them in future. Self-reliance creates a can-do attitude that enables you to focus on solutions instead of being submerged in problems. Self-reliance will enable you to grow, because you will forever be equipping yourself with new skills in order to stay that way.
Gandhiji was so fascinated by a book he had read while travelling from Johannesburg to Durban in South Africa, called Unto This Last by John Ruskin, (which argued in favour of bread labour — doing physical work) that he got off the train, bought a farm which he called Pheonix Settlement and began to run a community whose byword was self-reliance. The residents baked their own bread, sewed their own shoes and of course, cleaned their own toilets.
While we don’t have to go this far, it is a great thing to be able to back yourself in any situation, because you have the skill, and more important, the will to do so.
I know of several people including women, who are unable to cook, having relied on someone else to do that job. As time goes by though, many chafe at the dependency this brings. If the cook takes leave of absence, then they have no option but to eat out or order in. Personally, I believe each of us has to be able to sustain ourselves at a pinch.
Having said that, I myself have a way to go when it comes to self-reliance. Having got into the computer domain after 40, I have to confess I am technologically challenged. In the interest of self-reliance I am considering taking a course in the subject, for I find, now that I am retired, I do not have any young colleagues who would have helped me with the task.
Self-reliance frees us of dependencies and deepens our self-esteem. There is no greater security than knowing that we can cope with almost anything that comes our way.
Additionally, it also paves the path for independent thinking. The more self-reliant we are, the more we free ourselves from the miasma of mass consciousness. We begin to think for ourselves and draw our own conclusions about life. We become our own person.
My mother had not passed beyond the 8th standard. But she was one of the most self-reliant souls I have known. And it gave her the perspective to evaluate society independently. Without even knowing the word, she was an environmentalist who bewailed the introduction of pesticides and chemical manures and the degradation of the water and soil.
So cultivate self-reliance. It is a path that will lead you steadily through life.
The writer is former editor-in-chief of Life Positive magazine and founder, facilitator of the Zen of Good Writing Course. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org